Quantum Applications

Quantum Computing and renewable energy

March 1, 2021

As the world looks for new and more sustainable energy sources, renewable energy is again on the ascendancy. The move towards to renewable energy to combat climate change are one of the greatest technical challenges of our age. Quantum Computing also offers much promise with a variety of companies involved in the sector ranging from large technology companies such as IBM and Microsoft alongside numerous start-up’s. Could Quantum Computing help the quest towards renewable energies?

As Quantum Computing grows in popularity and interest, with researchers hunting for applications, some of those applications could directly impact the energy sector. A recent workshop as part of the IEEE Quantum Week focused on the application of quantum computing to renewable energy. Some of those applications are: Chemistry, Optimization (for example power distribution).

The workshop included individuals from government (the Department of Energy) and attendees from two national laboratories. Some from the quantum industry (Qubit Engineering and Zapata Computing). Additionally those from academia (University of Kentucky, University of Denver) and of course established players in the energy space (such as Commonwealth Edison, GE Renewable Energy and ExxonMobil) attended.

One common area that is proving fruitful in the Quantum Computing almost universally is the near term usage of Quantum Computing in Chemistry simulations. Applications of deploying Quantum Computing in Chemistry have applications for basic semiconductor physics – which are useful in photovoltaics or solar cells. Another chemistry application is that in the use of catalysts which can be useful in carbon capture.

Another big topic that is proving useful more generally is optimisation. More specifically in the renewable space, the optimisation of wind farms could be a key usage. Just like companies like VW are using Quantum for optimisation of traffic, efficient wind energy requires precise placement of turbines that makes optimal use of the landscape and aerodynamic qualities of each site.

Some interesting questions arose such as the difficulties in benchmarking quantum performance across the myriad of systems such as the classical-hybrid systems.

It was also highlighted how best Quantum Computing can be implemented. Business issues then focused on how quantum computing can be brought into existing company teams. Specialist knowledge exists and is available but the necessary experience to apply this knowledge to Quantum computing opportunities is lacking it seems across the board.